Tonight, as the Rockets look to go to 6-3, they head out east to take on the Philadelphia 76ers. Sam Hinkie (ex-Houston Assistant GM) took the General Manager job this summer and made drastic changes to the 76ers team and their outlook going forward.
This matchup is set to pin two of the fastest and efficient teams in the league against each other and Brandon Lee Gowton of Liberty Ballers and managing editor of Bleeding Green Nation (Eagles blog) took the time to answer some questions about this matchup and the 76ers team in general.
OJ_ATM: Sam Hinkie left Houston to be the 76er's General Manager this past offseason. What are the thoughts of him in Philadelphia and what has he done to change the 76ers outlook?
Brandon Lee Gowton: Sam Hinkie is the best. He's done about everything that Sixers fans could have wanted so far. Before, the Sixers were a aimlessly wandering team mired in mediocrity. Now, they seem to have a direction. Settling for low playoff seeds yearly isn't enough.
Hinkie is legitimately trying to build a championship contender, and he knows that there are growing pains in order to get to that step. The decision to trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was the biggest move. It showed Hinkie was serious about rebuilding the team, and it also revealed his management style.
He's not afraid to make trades, especially when the value is right. Holiday's trade netted the Sixers Nerlens Noel, the Pelicans first round pick in a very talented upcoming draft, and cap space. There are quite a number of people in Philadelphia who trust him and can appreciate the things he's done.
OJ_ATM: Coming into the season the popular opinion was that the 76ers would be the worst team in the league this season. Y'all are off to a 4-4 start as of now, are expectations higher now for the season? What could be the reason to the 76ers hot start?
Brandon Lee Gowton: I wouldn't say expectations are much higher. Perhaps the Sixers won't be the worst team, but they should be somewhere around there. Philly's hot start is due to a number of factors. First, some players are simply playing above their heads (see: Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes). Other young players have stepped up, such as Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten.
Then there's new head coach Brett Brown's impact on the team. Brown has the team energized and playing in a fast paced system. The Sixers push the ball more than any team in the league. Instead of bad shots (long 2 pointers) that were taken during the Doug Collins era, this new Sixers team seems to at least try to operate more efficiently.
OJ_ATM: Take a moment and pretend you're Brett Brown. Your young run-and-gun team is fixing to play the star-laden Houston Rockets. What's your game plan for winning the game?
Brandon Lee Gowton: Man, that's tough. Talent is so important in the NBA, and there's only so much one can do to work around that fact. I don't think the Sixers can really do much to win this one other than what they've done all year: get out and push the ball down the floor. Trying to get shots in the paint is ideal, but will be difficult with a big presence like Dwight Howard there. On defense... welp. The Sixers don't have an interior answer for players attacking the paint (James Harden) or a post threat (Dwight Howard), so... hope the Rockets miss?
In the end, all the Sixers can hope for is for their young players to play within the system and try their hardest. Player development this season is at a premium. Winning, well, that's not the main objective.
Thank you again to Brandon for joining us for a couple questions. I highly recommend following him on Twitter @BrandonGowton and make sure to check out the awesome coverage at both Liberty Ballers and (if you dare go to an Eagles blog) Bleeding Green Nation. Make sure to stop by the gamethread for further coverage of the game and a great time.